Perception and Comprehension of Prosody in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Successful communication depends on both what is said and how something is said. This aspect of language is collectively referred to as prosody and is ubiquitous in human communication. Individuals with ASD demonstrate significant difficulties with at least one aspect of prosody. Not only are prosodic deficits likely to persist and affect long-term social and communicative competence in individuals with ASD, they also create stigmatizing barriers to social integration and acceptance, which directly impact their interpersonal relationships, professional opportunities, emotional development, and overall quality of life. Thus, accurate identification and effective interventions that target prosodic deficits are necessary to improve long-term social and communication outcomes for individuals with ASD. A current barrier to achieving this long-term goal is our limited understanding on receptive prosody in ASD. No objective measure is available to assess receptive prosody in this population. In this work, we present an overall review of prosody (Chapter 1), a systematic review of receptive prosody deficits in individuals with ASD (Chapter 2), and a study that examined perception and comprehension of specific prosodic cues between TD children and children with ASD (Chapter 3). Results from this work can be summarized by four themes: a) eye-tracking is a feasible and objective approach to test receptive prosody in children with ASD; b) children with ASD demonstrated ability to perceive and comprehend specific prosodic cues; c) a subgroup of children with ASD with language impairment displayed slow processing that’s not specific to prosody; and d) speed-related differences is associated with broader clinical outcomes such as autism symptom severity in children with ASD. Current findings provide a crucial first step in accurately capturing specific prosodic deficits in individuals with ASD and pave the way for future study that seeks to understand the mechanisms that underlie language deficits and social communication difficulties in ASD.